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Paizo A question about Paizo/PF adventure design

dave2008

Legend
In the case of PF2, you would never face goblins when you have access to fireball, or would simply get no experience for fighting them. Monsters would be tougher and it would be unlikely you could one shot them with a spell. Plus all spells are greatly limited in effectiveness.
Players simply don't have the AoE output to deal with large groups of suitably challenging monsters.
Ya, the more I read about PF2 I think it just may not fit my version of fantasy RPG
 

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dave2008

Legend
Sure, but that’s not what I’m saying. One can discuss a context-specific issue without portraying it as a general problem.
Agreed - which I actually already did!
The way I handled this was to use the guidelines as a way to understand the nature of what was living there, so I could communicate an appropriate level of danger to the PCs.

For example, my PCs stumbled actoss a shambler’s lair while exploring. I knew it would be a really dangerous encounter, so I described the effect it had on its environment. They saw skulls and other signs that something nasty lurked within. And then my PCs got to decide what to do (avoid the area in this case).

When I talk about having tools that work, this is what I mean. I can look at the numbers and say “this situation will be X dangerous” and use that as one of my tools in my toolbox.
Yep, not how I typically design. Perhaps I could do things that way, but it definitely feels wrong to me (I am not saying it is wrong - just not for me). Perhaps I could learn to do it, but I don't see much pushing me to give PF2 a serious try anymore. I was really excited when it came out, but that as dissipated significantly since.
 
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kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
I guess the "resting" is not referring to a 10-minute rest to regain focus points, use battle medicine, repair checks, etc.? Should we infer that "resting" after a moderate-threat is a 8-hour/full/long rest?
Because I've yet to have a single encounter after which the party didn't want to take at least 10 minutes to recharge those particular resources.
I think the intent is that a moderate-threat encounter can make you want to stop for a breather, but if a group isn’t meeting the system’s tactical expectations, it will have a very rough time.

I wish this had been spelled out more explicitly because resting could be taken either way. It would make it easier to calibrate expectations and evaluate whether a group is playing at the desired level.
 

dave2008

Legend
You're misremembering, here's a quote courtesy of DND Beyond:


Compare this to the encounter guidelines from 2e, courtesy of Archives of Nethys:

Both games define their ultimate difficulty as having a risk of the party being defeated and requiring good tactics. Their penultimate levels both cite defeat and death as a real possibility. There are differences between the two games (2e isn't reliant on an attrition model, so its encounters are a little fiercer by themselves) but on a basic level they map pretty well in terms of stated expectation-- the main catch is that 2e is more expressive about what 'risks defeat' likely means in the 5e entry and what kind of party can take on its extreme encounter-- note the 'or' used at the end, extreme encounters are still ok if used rarely, even when the party has suffered some attrition.
I disagree. To me the 5e "deadly" sounds more like a PF2 "moderate" or "severe."

5e deadly: A deadly encounter could be lethal for one or more player characters. Survival often requires good tactics and quick thinking, and the party risks defeat

compared too:

PF2 Severe: encounters are the hardest encounters most groups of characters can consistently defeat. These encounters are most appropriate for important moments in your story, such as confronting a final boss. Bad luck, poor tactics, or a lack of resources due to prior encounters can easily turn a severe-threat encounter against the characters, and a wise group keeps the option to disengage open

You also are not taking into account the attrition nature of 5e design. I honestly don't remember if that is a thing in the PF2 design, but it sound like it is not based on the threads I have read about "free" healing between encounters. In fact, in the example above PF2 does a much better job of explaining that a lack of resources effects the encounter severity. These is absent from 5e description and you have dig deeper into the XP budget per adventure day to get there.
 

I guess the "resting" is not referring to a 10-minute rest to regain focus points, use battle medicine, repair checks, etc.? Should we infer that "resting" after a moderate-threat is a 8-hour/full/long rest?
Because I've yet to have a single encounter after which the party didn't want to take at least 10 minutes to recharge those particular resources.
I think its the 'multiple 10 minutes to restore health completely using medicine/lay on hands/ etc' kind of resting. it also might mean not blowing your highest level slots right off the bat, and don't forget whatever the guidelines say, players will always want to get as much back as they have a chance to. So even if it was yrivial, theres a good chance theyll blow focus points and recharge them as often as possible.
 

Retreater

Legend
I think its the 'multiple 10 minutes to restore health completely using medicine/lay on hands/ etc' kind of resting. it also might mean not blowing your highest level slots right off the bat, and don't forget whatever the guidelines say, players will always want to get as much back as they have a chance to. So even if it was yrivial, theres a good chance theyll blow focus points and recharge them as often as possible.
True, but in PF2, a GM can't really set the pace. The system sets the pace. And if that means every encounter starts with the PCs fully rested with no extra complications or you have a likely TPK, I guess that's what you have to do.
I haven't seen a single instance in the first two books of the first AP where it doesn't matter if the party retreats and takes a full rest between encounters. Completely static encounters with no stakes at all.
 

Zsong

Explorer
I guess the "resting" is not referring to a 10-minute rest to regain focus points, use battle medicine, repair checks, etc.? Should we infer that "resting" after a moderate-threat is a 8-hour/full/long rest?
Because I've yet to have a single encounter after which the party didn't want to take at least 10 minutes to recharge those particular resources.
Irl wouldn’t any sane person is want a short rest after fighting if they can. A little catch your breath, clean your wounds, get some water.
 


True, but in PF2, a GM can't really set the pace. The system sets the pace. And if that means every encounter starts with the PCs fully rested with no extra complications or you have a likely TPK, I guess that's what you have to do.
I haven't seen a single instance in the first two books of the first AP where it doesn't matter if the party retreats and takes a full rest between encounters. Completely static encounters with no stakes at all.
That hasn't been my experience and I've been GMing weekly since release. I've had encounters start with sub-max health pcs, or without focus points and go just fine. The trick is that the party can use limited resources like spells and potions to compensate when theyre pushed. Fully rested PCs still dunk on hard encounters (though theyll definetly feel them) once players have a feel for the game. The system isnt tying your hands in any meangful sense.
 

Retreater

Legend
That hasn't been my experience and I've been GMing weekly since release. I've had encounters start with sub-max health pcs, or without focus points and go just fine. The trick is that the party can use limited resources like spells and potions to compensate when theyre pushed. Fully rested PCs still dunk on hard encounters (though theyll definetly feel them) once players have a feel for the game. The system isnt tying your hands in any meangful sense.
I don't know. Maybe my players were just bad? We would regularly have shattered shields, characters low on HP, and more after even moderate encounters. To throw anything against them in that condition would be a death sentence.
 

I don't know. Maybe my players were just bad? We would regularly have shattered shields, characters low on HP, and more after even moderate encounters. To throw anything against them in that condition would be a death sentence.
The game really rewards tactics and preperation, make no mistake that it is harder than 5e, so success isn't a foregone conclusion. Choices like whether the party is debuffing, or has a deficated healer, or if someone is boosting their primary stat do matter, or if they ever use consumables in the moments between two back to back combats.

Its pretty easy to make the encounters eadier if your players are struggling, or they can improve themselves-- since improvement in a game like this is knowledge based, its inherently accessible (as opposed to something physical) for anyone.
 

Zsong

Explorer
IIRC, it was built into Rules Cyclopedia as a requirement for every fight or hour of exploration?
I kinda like the idea of a ten minute rest but a wandering monster check depending on where it’s located also. Now that’s fun. A logical random encounter based on the area. Might be guards in a dungeon or an owlbear in the wilderness.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
I’m going to be running Winter’s Daughter for my group’s OSE one-shot. It has lovely random encounter events tables. They’re evocative of the areas and not just ‘surprise! a monster attacks’. The ones I put together for my dungeon crawl feel crummy by comparison.
 

Retreater

Legend
I’m going to be running Winter’s Daughter for my group’s OSE one-shot. It has lovely random encounter events tables. They’re evocative of the areas and not just ‘surprise! a monster attacks’. The ones I put together for my dungeon crawl feel crummy by comparison.
I have heard good things about that one. You'll have to let us know how it goes.
Our group is playing through Caverns of Thracia, and it's very tedious - a literal dungeon crawl, making about 40 feet of progress every weekly session. The GM should work on his pacing a bit.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
As I mentioned I have not yet played PF2, so I may not understand the changes to fireball, but what I was trying to say was:
  1. Scenario A: There are 3 goblins in the room and you cast fireball = 3 dead goblins
  2. Scenario B: There are now 6 goblins in the room (3 just came from an adjacent room) and you cast fireball = 6 dead goblins.
Scenario B is 2x the opponents, but the same "cost" to resolve. Does that make sense? If that is not how it works in PF2 then my apologies, that is how it works in every version of D&D I've played (1e / D&D, 4e, & 5e)

Gotcha. PF2 is a bit different as spell casters are not capable for he extremes of damage they could in PF1 / 3x. So in PF2 if the goblins are a moderate threat, a fireball will just end up with 3 goblins maybe at ⅓ hit points.

However I'm not sure that even in 4E that fireballs are a one-shot for a group of three foes that are counted as moderate threat. In most versions of D&D, for three goblins to be a moderate threat they are close to player-level hit points, and a single at-level fireball has never been able to TPK a party in any system I've played in.

In 4E I think a lot of spells are enemy only, so you could happily be engaged with one group of goblins, and cast a spell including you and both groups and toast only yer opposition, but my recollection of 3x and AD&D is that that is not the case for them (not sure about 5E). So magic effects like fireball are pretty much useless once you have enemies engaged with you. The best scenario for the party is that you are in a big room engaged with enemies when another group comes in the far end. THEN your spell caster can step out of the fracas and spend an action fireballing the newcomers.

Sadly, that was never the case in the last AP we played in -- if we triggered a second group they tended to run straight to us as soon as they saw us or they split up and fired ranged attacks at us from multiple locations. Maybe our GM just didn't like us ...
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
I don't know. Maybe my players were just bad? We would regularly have shattered shields, characters low on HP, and more after even moderate encounters. To throw anything against them in that condition would be a death sentence.
No, PF2 is just plain more dangerous! I think everyone is in agreement on that. In other systems I regularly make adjustments to add challenge to my players. In PF2 my GM almost never needed to do that.

A lot depends on the type of characters people want to play. In PF2 if you play a fairly optimized party you will have no issues defeating most of the AP encounters without spending many resources, but for the average party that is not the case -- and Age of Ashes is particularly brutal sometimes. If your players are not happy with constantly being beaten up, and/or you want to add some time pressure and not always have them rest up between encounters, you will need to adjust to make that happen.

The same way as when running 5E against a combat-focused party, the GM will need to adjust in the other direction to make it at all challenging for them.

It is a definite difference -- not your players!
 

Retreater

Legend
A lot depends on the type of characters people want to play. In PF2 if you play a fairly optimized party you will have no issues defeating most of the AP encounters without spending many resources, but for the average party that is not the case -- and Age of Ashes is particularly brutal sometimes. If your players are not happy with constantly being beaten up, and/or you want to add some time pressure and not always have them rest up between encounters, you will need to adjust to make that happen.
I couldn't even find a way to not kill them when they were at maximum resources before every fight in Age of Ashes. We averaged a TPK every other session.
And with automation on a VTT showing dice rolls and auto calculating damage, I couldn't fudge rolls even if I wanted to.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Anyway, I’m not sure this agrees with you. You’ve been saying you shouldn’t smush encounters together, but that’s exactly what he says he’s doing there at the end. If the general message needs to be “don't smush your encounters together”, I don’t see how this supports that. Even James Jacobs chimes in to say they expect people to adjust things and run them dynamically and reactively to what the PCs are doing.

If the problem is that official adventures (published so far) seem like they want you to do one thing but don’t support that very well as written, then I’m not sure there’s much contention here about that. Maybe we’re just talking past each other, but I also think it’s not is not particularly helpful for clarity to frame something as a general message when it’s actually more specific.
For the umpteenth time, I am not saying it can't be done. I'm saying that budding PF2 gamesmasters should hold off doing it. I'm saying don't smush your encounters together.

I am saying that the natural and intuitive approach, which is to move the monsters from room 13 into room 15 where another bunch of monsters already live for reasons DOES. NOT. WORK.

It worked in 3e. It worked in PF1. It totally works in 5E. It risks ruining your whole campaign in PF2.

(In those other games, the damage per round of the party coasting along conserving resources is significantly lower than the party going into panic nova mode. This approach to game design is completely absent from PF2 until higher level spells kick in, and martial characters can never shift gears. That's the difference)

So as a general and simple message, don't smush together your encounters.

A more complex and accurate message would be "change encounters around, modifying monsters and/or numbers and/or the timing of their arrival and/or terrain and other factors". But since neither the CRB nor the GMG spends even a single word acknowledging this to be a real problem, it is neither simple nor direct. (Paizo only discuss creating encounters. Not how to combine - or not to combine - encounters) Edit: see my post below where I back this up.

I prefer simple and direct so I'll stick to the very good advice don't smush your encounters together.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
In the case of PF2, you would never face goblins when you have access to fireball, or would simply get no experience for fighting them. Monsters would be tougher and it would be unlikely you could one shot them with a spell. Plus all spells are greatly limited in effectiveness.
Players simply don't have the AoE output to deal with large groups of suitably challenging monsters.
It should be noted that this is accurate at low levels.

But not at high levels.

(A level 5 party - that just got Fireball - can't do diddly squat with it against the four or five level ~3 monsters you can take on and still expect everyone to live to tell the tale. A level 15 party, however, can demolish a dozen level 12 or 13 monsters and still be hungry for more)

At each level the game slowly but inexorably changes in ways that are nearly impossible to perceive without actually playing it. (And it's not like the rulebook explains and details these changes beyond the vaguest of terms like "PCs who invest in a skill will become better and better at that skill as they increase in level" on page 504). In other words, I would be completely unable to verify this if my campaign hadn't just reached level 15.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Compared to other D&D systems, it doesn't seem as far out of line. I've been playing 4E at epic levels, and I think combining two dangerous encounters there would TPK us more of the time than high-level PF2 combinations would.
I'm assuming that out of a hundred prospective Pathfinder 2 GMs, ninety-nine or so will have had experience with 3e, PF1 or 5E, not 4E. shrug
 

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